IVF is a big investment, emotionally, physically and financially. Who wouldnâ€™t want to do everything possible to optimize their outcome? Every day I have patients who ask me what they can do to prepare for an IVF cycle with nutrition, lifestyle and supplements. There are in fact several health changes you can make on your own which do make a difference.
Major factors which you can directly affect (on which ivf success very much depends) are: egg quality, and the ability of the embryo to successfully implant. These are dependent on the overall cellular and circulatory health of the couple. Good quality follicles and a rich, implantable endometrial lining are key to having a successful cycle, without either of these factors, your chance of success lowers dramatically. It is best to work on these issues for several months prior to the IVF cycle if possible, as the eggs which will be retrieved for your ivf cycle spend several months developing in the ovaries.
Although each patient has specific needs which are best addressed individually, I have made a list of 10 important things that women can do to prepare for an IVF cycle. I have consistently seen that being on the right combination of supplements can improve response and I will mention two of the basic supplements for IVF that all women should be taking.
- Eat high quality, whole grain and low glycemic index foods. Avoid processed foods, hydrogenated oils, sugars, and alcohol. Avoid large amounts of soy products. Quit smoking if you smoke.
- High quality healthy fats should be a big part of your dietâ€“ unrefined oils, foods rich in polyunsaturates such as nuts, seeds, and avocado, and uncontaminated fish. Check the environmental defense fund (http://apps.edf.org/page.cfm?tagID=17694) for a list of low contaminant fish species.
- Gentle exercise such as walking or fertility yoga 4 times per week. Exercise reduces stress and improves circulation. Avoid exercise that is overly strenuous.
- Meditation and acupuncture : these are important for both stress relief and the ability to improve IVF outcomes. Acupuncture can simultaneously improve circulation and reduce overall stress levels.
- Greatly reduce or eliminate caffeine, especially after transfer.
- Eat organic to reduce load on the liver and to avoid hormone disruptors. Check out the shoppers guide from the EDF (http://static.ewg.org/reports/2011/foodnews/pdf/2011EWGPesticideGuide.pdf) to determine which foods are most heavily sprayed in pesticides. Many pesticides have estrogenic effects which can lower egg quality.
- Check your thyroid (my opinion is that your TSH should be below 2.0 for IVF) and have full bloodwork completed including antinuclear antibody, prolactin, ferritin, INR, prolactin, FSH, LH, DHEA-S, testosterone, and Antimullerian hormone.
- Get into a healthy sleep cycle for at least 1 month before your cycle, aiming for 8 hours of sleep. Sleep in complete darkness to improve natural melatonin production. Melatonin is required for healthy follicle development. At this time melatonin supplements are not recommended as they have hormonal effects, however try to focus on improving natural levels of melatonin prior to your cycle.
- Take an omega 3 fish oil supplement. Aim for at least 400 mg of DHA and 800 mg of EPA daily. Omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to improve embryo morphology during IVF. Be sure to choose a product that has been third party tested for contaminants.
- Take coenzyme q 10. Coenzyme Q10 improves egg quality by acting as a mitochondrial antioxidant. Aim for approximately 400mg twice daily. Choose a crystal free or ubiquinol form.
You may have noticed that improving circulation and delivering quality nutrients to the cells are key elements of my ivf preparation guide. In IVF, we need to ensure that our follicles are receiving protective nutrients to protect them from damage and improve their integrity during the stimulation process. Nutrients and antioxidants reach your tissues such as your ovaries and endometrial lining and eventually the embryo as it implants through the circulation. It does not matter what you eat, or what supplements you take, if you donâ€™t have good circulation to deliver these nutrients to your tissues.
Do everything you can to take care of yourself emotionally, as IVF can be a bumpy road of ups and downs, with emotions ranging from intense disappointment to great joy when your cycle is finally successful. Allow yourself to feel your emotions as they come up, and give yourself the time you need to heal. I wish you all the best of success in your cycles.
by Dr. Fiona McCulloch ND